Port Gamble S’Klallam tries out new method for net pen fish transfer

The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe has developed a new transfer method to move juvenile coho salmon from the state’s George Adams Hatchery to tribal net pens in Port Gamble Bay.

Fish were transferred from land to the net pen through this 1,300-foot-long pipe that was custom made for this project.

About 429,000 young fish were hauled by tanker truck from the hatchery and dumped into a 2,300-gallon tank on the shore of the tribe’s reservation. The fish flow out from the tank down a 1,300-foot-long 4-inch pipe leading to the 63,000 cubic-foot net pens. Each fish took an average of about eight minutes to make the swim.

“We decided to change up the method of transfer to make it easier on the fish and our crew,” said Paul McCollum, the tribe’s natural resources director. “It was a method that worked well when I worked in Alaska and it worked well here too.”

The coho will be fed daily in the net pen before being released in June. They are expected to return as adults in two years. Most of the fish carry a tiny coded-wire tag in their snout to identify its origin, date of release and other information.

The tribal net pen program has been operated for nearly 30 years in Port Gamble Bay, providing harvest opportunities for Indian and non-Indian fisheries in the bay and Hood Canal. Tim Seachord, the Tribe’s Hatchery Manager has been overseeing this and other hatchery projects for nearly three decades now.